At the beach, at parties, at any gathering of adults who have college-bound children in the latter stages of high school, the topic of paying for college is discussed. This was not always the case. When I started providing test prep and college counseling advice in the 2000s, the biggest focus among Shoreline, CT parents was admission to top schools. Then the Great Recession hit and things shifted. Moreover – and while I am a huge fan of Connecticut (as a transplant, I can say it is a great state without real personal bias) – Connecticut has had some economic hits in the 2010s that have changed the financial well being of many in the state.
I recall one of the more telling conversations I had on the subject. I was having lunch with a prominent business leader. His 5000 square foot house on the water among other trappings as well as his high level executive position with a significant company would lead few to believe that he was struggling with how he would afford college for his children. “$250-300k per child. That’s unsustainable.”
So what is the answer: follow the evidence. Most colleges have a sticker price and a real price. The sticker price – let’s say $60,000/year – can be driven down to $40,000/year. How? Excluding recruited athletes, it is not due to activities. And while grades do play a factor, the combination of grade inflation (sorry to say, do not be too excited by your child’s A- average) and difficulty in discerning differentiation between grades from school to school, grades are also not that important.
What makes the difference? Test scores.